It's been over a year now, I have wanted to write about it since it happened but this is the first time I've felt able to actually do it. I was 11 weeks pregnant with our 3rd child, we were in the car en route to our first scan.
I felt a little apprehensive having had a tiny bit of spotting the night before. We were running late which was getting me a little more worked up. My husband was laughing at me, telling me to relax, joking and teasing me about how stressed I was getting about our tardiness. Finally, we got there, My other half checked us in at reception. I had never noticed before how they asked for payment prior to the scan. I guess that avoids having to ask somebody to pay up if they get bad news, I thought.
It wasn't long before We were called in, after asking a few questions regarding why we were opting for an early scan, the sonographer typed "maternal reassurance" as the reason. So We began, the flat screen mounted on the wall right in front of us, we waited anxiously to see our baby for the first time.
As the probe was positioned the image of our little bean appeared, I quickly noticed the absence of that all-important flicker. I knew. I looked at my husband, he hadn't realised yet, he was still waiting expectantly.
The sonographer started to speak apprehensively, describing various things she could see, and then she delivered the news I already knew, "but unfortunately I can't see a little heartbeat there today, I'm so sorry" I looked at the screen, the perfectly shaped little foetus, but no tiny limb movements, silence, stillness, it was there but just floating in the darkness.
The room suddenly felt tiny, like there was no air, I needed to get out. Tears streaming down my face, we were guided down the back stairs, avoiding the couples excitedly waiting for their turn.
A wave of grief and sadness hit me, my heart ached, it was gone, I would never meet that little person I had been planning for these last 11 weeks. I would never hold them, smell their baby newness, I would never know if they were a boy or girl, I would never get to see how their big sisters would be with their new sibling. We made our way to the maternity hospital, we were put in a waiting room with other mothers to be waiting for scans.
Some tried to keep their eyes on the ground and avoid us, some were oblivious and beamed with happiness as they came out clutching black and white pictures. Sometime later we were brought into a small room, a doctor went through the motions of explaining the different management options. Tears still rolled down my cheeks, she shifted uncomfortably in her seat, "Are you OK?" She asked in an almost surprised tone. I mumbled yes, she continued, "Are you sure you're ok?" She asked again, sounding almost a little irritated by my emotion and inability to listen attentively to her. I felt silly for not being able to suck it up, wipe the tears away and get on with what needed to be done.
She gave up on me and conversed only with my husband from then. I was fairly certain that I wanted a procedure called an ERCP (evacuation of retained products of conception) or more commonly known as a D&C. Satisfied that a decision was made she said, "right, you come in next week and we will scrape out your womb." I felt sick. That's all I was to her, another job on her list, my grief and loss an inconvenience and distraction.
But really I wanted to shout at them, "No actually it's not fair, it's not fair that my baby was taken, it's not fair that its little heart stopped beating. Please stop minimising my loss.
At home, I got to the safety of our bedroom as fast as I could, overwhelmed by sadness, we held each other and cried. In the days that followed I felt numb, I tried to keep a somewhat brave face for our children, but they saw the tears a number of times. We explained as simply as we could. Mama had a tiny baby in her tummy, but that baby was too small and sick and weak and so it died, and that is why we are sad, but we will be ok. They are sensitive little souls, and showered me with hugs and kisses which was exactly what was needed. I found it so difficult to look down at my small little bump and know that my little baby was still in there, still and silent.
The earliest date for a D&C was over a week away, luckily a friend of mine working in obstetrics got me an earlier appointment. I gathered a different sort of hospital bag to the one usually associated with a trip to a maternity hospital. Again at check-in, we waited in line with heavily pregnant women checking in for inductions and elective caesareans. Upstairs on the Gyn day ward, we went through the motions of meeting different members of staff, midwives, anaesthetist, bereavement midwife, doctors. Answering the usual standard questions prior to a procedure.
My friend popped her head in behind the curtain, it was so good to see a friendly face, her hug was much needed. She even did a quick scan for me as I was haunted by the irrational fear of "what if they were wrong, what if my baby is actually still alive in there and I'm about to evacuate it from my body?" I knew it wasn't but I needed that reassurance, and I was so thankful that I had someone to give me that.
After a while the cytotek took effect, the cramps were pretty intense, but in a strange way, I felt it was important I feel some pain for this tiny baby, seeing as I would never go through any sort of labour for it. The midwife came to take me to surgery. Down in theatre, I waited my turn, clutching my pillow on my lap. The doctor who was to do my ERPC introduced himself, he sat down beside me, he chatted gently to me for a few minutes and said: "I'm sorry about this, but we'll look after you". When I woke up I heard a baby crying, it took a minute for me to realise where I was and realise they were the cries of somebody else's newborn. The midwife in recovery was kind, "I'm sure that's the last thing you want to hear," she said.
I smiled and said, "Well sure that's just life isn't it". Leaving the hospital I felt so numb, so cold, so lonely. My husband put his arm around me, I wrapped my arms tightly around my abdomen. I felt so empty, so hollow.
"Miscarriage is still not talked about much. I can't help but think that part of the reason for this is because women feel they are not allowed or meant to be upset about it. "
In the days that followed, I cried a lot. But I was so conflicted about how I felt. People tried to say things they thought would help. "Oh that's awful, but it's so common, at least it was early."
"Look on the bright side, you are so lucky, you have two beautiful children already." "At least you know you can get pregnant."
Enter guilt, my thoughts in response to these words: "What is wrong with me? Why am I upset when it was early and other women are obviously able to get over it without much fuss. "
"They are right, I am lucky, I have no right to feel sad about this, I should be grateful for what I have."
"I am clearly a complete drama queen, my loss is minuscule compared to some. What has happened to me is minor and I am acting like it's a tragedy."
But really I wanted to shout at them, "No actually it's not fair, it's not fair that my baby was taken, it's not fair that its little heart stopped beating. Please stop minimising my loss. I wanted that baby. Telling me it was early, there was something wrong with it or that I'll have another doesn't ease the pain, it just plain hurts. And as for counting myself lucky for the children I have, well I absolutely do, but honestly which one of your children would you have chosen not to meet?"
But of course I didn't say any of this, I knew that people meant well, and what was said was said with good intentions. I suppose as a society we are uncomfortable with sadness, grief and negative emotions in general, we like to try and fix things, make people look on the positive side. Miscarriage is still not talked about much. I can't help but think that part of the reason for this is because women feel they are not allowed or meant to be upset about it. There is a definite attitude of "suck it up".
I felt the pressure of this attitude, I wanted to stay at home and cry but I felt guilty, and silly for these feelings. I feared family and friends thought I was "making a meal out of" the whole situation. I tried to get it together, put on a brave face and get back to "normal". I uttered the phrase "ah sure it just wasn't meant to be", many times, agreed with people about how lucky I was in other ways and deflected my pain by minimising it compared to others.
We are one year on and unfortunately are two further losses along. One of which included a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Resulting in The loss of one of my Fallopian tubes as well as the pregnancy. Bringing into focus not only loss and grief but also my own mortality, as well as uncertainty regarding my future ability to conceive.
I am not looking for a pity party. I am doing ok. But I do want to break the silence, I want to speak for those women that are experiencing this pain right now. They should not have to feel alone or unjustified in their sadness.
They should not be made to feel that their pregnancy loss is a common medical condition, regardless of how far along they were. Miscarriage is different for everyone. Let's respect that. Let's offer sympathy and support.
If you don't know what to say, don't fill the gaps with cliches, put your hand on their shoulder, offer a kind smile, a hug. It hurts because it mattered. Let's not make them feel it didn't.